No, you’re not seeing things: the classic Broadspeed Ford Capri written off in a huge crash at Silverstone in 1973 has been brought back to life
By Ed Foster
The words ‘replica’ and ‘recreation’ will either evoke little reaction in you or send shivers down your spine. For as long as there have been interesting cars in the world, people – with varying degrees of attention to detail – have made replicas (Porsche GT based on a Porsche Boxster, anyone?). Nowhere is this more rife than in the historic car market, where the topic has been so hotly debated that even Max Mosley had his say in Motor Sport’s Lunch With… feature back in 2006. “Cars that are real pieces of motor sport history should not be raced,” Mosley told Simon Taylor over mouthfuls of lobster mousse and green salad in Monaco. “Real racing should be kept for facsimiles.”
What we have here, however, is something different: a recreation of a car that no longer exists. Even the most ardent ‘replica cynic’ would have to agree that it’s better to see something like this back on the track than, well, nowhere.
On a very cold and sunny day at Mallory Park Andy Rouse, test driver and race development engineer of the original car, not to mention a four-time British Saloon Car Champion, and Roger King, a very young works manager at Broadspeed in the 1970s, reunited to stretch this long-lost Capri’s legs.
The exhaustively named Broadspeed Lindrick Finance Ford Capri RS2600 turned heads when Dave Matthews raced it in the 1973 British Saloon Car Championship. It was the car’s end, however, that cemented its name in the history books – a horrific crash at the British Grand Prix support race which left it ready for the scrapheap and Matthews with career-ending injuries.
Broadspeed had made its name racing BDA Escort 1300s and 2-litre Escorts before turning to the Capri. Ralph Broad started the company in 1962 and specialised in engine tuning, which took him into Mini racing and then the BSCC. As with many an engineering wizard he had his quirks, but what he did do was apply his imagination in such a way that his cars were the ones to beat. Week in, week out.
“Ralph was a very, very clever man… a complete nutter though,” recalls King, now director of QM Engineering. “We were watching a race at Thruxton standing on top of the old truck, and Ralph was jumping up and down, shouting ‘f***ing useless’ and things like that. Then it all went quiet. We thought, ‘oh well, at least he’s calmed down’. About half an hour later there was an announcement over the tannoy: ‘could a member of the Broadspeed team please go to the medical centre?’ It turns out that Ralph had broken his leg falling off the back of the truck.”
It was during 1971 that a 24-year-old Formula Ford racer by the name of Andy Rouse approached Broadspeed to ask for an engine. “I’ve got a works Dulon, how about a works engine from Broadspeed?” Rouse recalls asking. He emerged with an engine and a job.
“Because I had an apprenticeship on tractors and diggers I got a job at Broadspeed, and that set me on the trail of touring car racing. I did a couple of seasons of Formula Ford and the National Championship the year I started at Broadspeed, but that didn’t go too well because I was up against people with money and I didn’t have any. Even though I had a decent engine and quite a good car, the season hadn’t gone well.
“I packed in Formula Ford and the only way I could get anywhere was to go saloon car racing. Fortunately the Escort Mexico Championship was just kicking off, and that was an obvious thing for Broadspeed to do, so I did a deal with Ralph. I bought a car off him at cost and prepared it in Broadspeed’s workshops in my spare time, and one of the engine shop lads built me an engine. So off I went Mexico racing and that was my first season with a roof over my head.
“I ended up by winning the Mexico Championship, which Broadspeed did very well out of. It was a growing thing at the time, spreading across Europe, so Broadspeed ended up building cars to run in other countries. The place was full of Mexicos! Because I was involved with Group 2 and the Escorts in the saloon car championship, I used to test the Escorts and later the Capris. It was a great opportunity because I could work in the workshops, do the test driving and race.”
It was the Escort that put Broadspeed on the map. Broad recalls: “We won everything at the time with that Escort. We used a Watts linkage on the back end and twin trailing radius arms, basically like the old Aston Martin suspension.”
But Ford wanted a car that could win BSCC races outright and fight with the Camaros at the longer circuits. At the time the series still ran a class system, so a car of any size could win the overall title. Broadspeed turned to the Capri, which was about as suitable for racing as a Volkswagen Campervan. But it had little choice if it wanted those wins – the other cars at its disposal were the Cortina, Zephyr, Zodiac and the Granada. Not the most sporting of line-ups.
If anyone could get the Capri to handle, it was Broadspeed. The company built two cars for 1973 and Dave Matthews was looking forward to being on level terms with Camaro ace Frank Gardner: “I was dead keen to beat Gardner, who I’d nearly beaten a couple of times the previous year with my Escort in the wet. The chance to nail him was there with that big car.”
The Lindrick Finance Capri was built for Matthews to race in the BSCC, while the sister car was built for Vince Woodman in the Belgian Saloon Car Championship. Power came from a 2600cc fuel-injected Weslake-tuned Cologne V6. The only confusing part of the cars’ DNA was that, rather illogically, the Woodman Capri (otherwise known as the Claude Bourgoignie car) was right-hand drive, while the Lindrick Finance Capri was left-hand drive. The cars were built from shells, so it took no more time to make a right-hand drive than a left-hand drive, so why do this? It seems no one has any idea.
While the Escorts were nimble, the Capris were sluggish, and Broad had his work cut out to make them handle well. “Ralph came up with an idea to get round the regulations,” King explains. “Because the car was running such wide tyres, the [coil] springs were fairly inboard to clear them.” This gave the car its famous ‘Capri roll’, with more time spent on two wheels than four – a feature not helped by the fact that an Escort style brace bar wouldn’t work thanks to the intake trumpets. “Consequently,” continues King, “Ralph came up with an idea to get the ratio of the spring to the wheel right by putting the spring behind the rear wheel [operated by a horizontal U-shaped rocker]. It was brilliant.”
Rouse remembers this revolutionary fix, which he experienced in that September’s Silverstone TT race, driving the Woodman car. Sadly, after qualifying sixth, the crank broke (a known weakness of the Weslake unit) and he retired. “Ralph was brilliant. Never short of ideas,” says Rouse. “Sometimes they were just hard to put it into practice, and they were usually drawn on the back of a fag packet…”
With the suspension sorted, Matthews began his campaign at Brands Hatch on March 18, where he qualified fourth and finished sixth behind two Camaros, two Escorts (so far Ford’s plan of ‘upgrading’ from the Escort was going brilliantly) and a BMW CSL. At the next two races at Silverstone on April 8 and Thruxton on April 23 he posted retirements, due to fuel supply and engine problems respectively. But in a return trip to Thruxton on May 28, Matthews drove a brilliant race to finish third. The tyres had gone off and the heavy car had become even more of a nightmare to handle, leaving him exhausted.
“I trained like a demon that year,” he says. “It was difficult to drive that car quickly throughout a race. I was doing sets of 80 press-ups every day, just because it was such a difficult car.
“It was very quick in some corners, but not all the time. At Brands, for instance, it showed up quite well. I had faith in Ralph Broad and Roger, though. They produced wonderful touring cars – you used to just get in, pump the tyres up and put the petrol in. I mean they were very, very quick.”
It was at the next race it all went wrong.
The British GP support started well enough with Matthews third on the grid. But seven laps into the race Matthews’ Capri, Dave Brodie’s Norman Reeves Escort 1600 and Gavin Booth’s BMC Mini were involved in one of the worst accidents in BSCC history.
“I’m a little bit tapped around by it but I remember what happened,” says Matthews, who can laugh about events now. “People who get banged on the head don’t usually remember a damn thing, but I remember everything. I remember the car, the colour of it, the sun on it…
“When you’re in a quick car lapping slower cars, you get to know whether they’ve seen you or not. I knew Gavin hadn’t seen me. I wanted to get after Frank [Gardner] and at Abbey I just popped down the inside of Gavin, giving him more space than I would have usually because my corner was spoiled anyway. The next thing I remember I was looking at the road.
“Witnesses thought Gavin had seen me coming up the inside and tried to pop in to get a pull. But with the speed differential in those cars, he was never going to get a pull anyway. It was just an unfortunate thing.
“I was going quicker than he was, sort of timing it so that as he drifted out, I drifted past on the inside. I remember the next thing he touched my offside wheel and pulled the tyre off the rim. I think the photographs showed it. And then the wind got under my car, and I don’t know how quick I was going but it was still quickish. Anyway, the car got up in the air and that was that.”
Matthews suffered head and eye injuries, and to this day has no sight in one eye. He subsequently missed out on an offer from Peter Ashcroft at Ford to race for the team in 1974, and has competed on few occasions since thanks to problems passing the medical for a race licence. But Matthews realises he was lucky to escape at all: “I owe my skin to the Broadspeed qualities in that car. I’m not sure many people have got away with a bigger one than that. I thank that car for getting me out of it.”
Broadspeed continued to flourish, as did Rouse, who won his four touring car titles in a Broadspeed-prepared Triumph Dolomite Sprint in 1975, a Rover Vitesse in ’83, an Alfa Romeo GTV6 in ’84 and the Ford Sierra Turbo in ’85.
After the Capris, Broadspeed ran the Jaguar V12, which King doesn’t have such fond memories of: “It was totally the wrong car to race, but Ralph was pushed into a corner. It should have been what Tom Walkinshaw had, an XJS – that would have been sensational. But Jaguar wanted to promote the V12. The car was so unsuccessful they deemed it was doing Jaguar’s image no good, so they pulled the plug.”
It was also the end for Ralph Broad and Broadspeed – following trouble with the unions, he left the UK 30 years ago to set up home in the Algarve: “I started when I was 14 and in the end I employed 200 people, but the unions were telling me what to do. I didn’t do it so they blackballed me. I said ‘that’s it,’ and I sold out. It lasted three years and then it closed.”
“Ralph sold the business to another ’60s Mini racer John Handley, who had a very successful engineering supply group called Roller Chain Holdings,” recalls Andy Rouse. “John ran Broadspeed for a few more years but without Ralph it wasn’t the same, so he closed it down. At the same time Vic Drake and I were ready to start up in the racing business, so having secured premises in Daventry we bought most of Broadspeed’s equipment and Andy Rouse Engineering was born.”
The company soon became a household name, enjoying the same reputation as Broadspeed for producing extremely quick cars. Rouse himself finally hung up his helmet in 1994 with 60 top-flight wins and now occasionally competes only in historic cars. He’s happy with his legacy.
This new Capri may be a recreation, but the team that worked on the original car is certainly pleased to see it on track. “It’s great – it’s a racing car again as opposed to a wreck being stuffed in a yard somewhere,” says Matthews. “It’s good that some of these things that have got history are given another chance. I know they’ll have done a great job; Roger King was always such a great engineer. It’s a very strong team.”
Many thanks to Speedmaster, QM Engineering, Andy Rouse and Mallory Park for their help with this feature.
Recalled to life
Rebuilding the Lindrick Finance Capri was no simple matter
A year ago Speedmaster commissioned QM Engineering, whose director and owner Roger King worked on the Lindrick Finance Capri in 1973, to build a recreation of the car. No easy task when you consider that many of the Capri drawings were lost in a flood at Ford Cologne.
King (below) was ideally placed to bring this car back to life, however, as he still has many of the original Broadspeed technical plans. The car you see on the opening pages is almost exactly as it was in 1973, bar the obvious safety improvements such as side impact bars and HANS device points.
The biggest thing that’s changed is that QM has built the car to RS 3100 specification. Strange, you may think, when the 1973 Lindrick Finance car housed the less blood-curdling 2600 engine. Well, during the evolution of these cars the Claude Bourgoignie Capri was updated to 3100 spec. The Lindrick Finance car would have undergone the same surgery had it survived beyond that fateful day at Silverstone, so 35 years later it has finally, and quite appropriately, received its update.
The car is, unsurprisingly, proving as quick as the original after posting a fastest lap of 52.3 seconds in its first race at Mallory Park. James Hanson of Speedmaster had some overheating problems on the grid of the Touring ’70s race after a three-minute wait for the green flag, but recovered well to be classified fourth.